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 November 12, 2003
STB To Review Recommendations Of IACT 2003

 The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will be reviewing some of the key recommendations of the International Advisory Council for Tourism (IACT), following its two-day meeting on 10 and 11 November in Singapore. The Council emphasised that Singapore is currently facing tremendous challenges, especially in the wake of recent regional and international crises, as well as increasing competition from its regional neighbours. The members commended Singapore on its resilience having rebounded quickly despite the threat of SARS.

Mr Mike Rusbridge, Chairman of Reed Exhibitions said; "The Council recognises that Singapore's tourism industry is faced with intensive competition and tremendous challenges. Despite the tough and challenging environment, the STB has set ambitious stretched goals and responded with a sense of urgency to turn around and drive the growth of the tourism industry."

The Honourable Jeffrey Gibb Kennett, Past Premier of Victoria, said; "Singaporeans, including the Government, must understand the cheese has moved for Singapore. When trying to attract visitors, be they business or tourist related, what succeeded in the past, will not deliver new opportunities in future. There is no time to waste for Singapore to identify and implement new policies for the 21st century."

Mr Lim Neo Chian, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board, said; "Tourism receipts have been declining over the last ten years and the competition has made huge strides during this period. The STB management heard the IACT members loud and clear, that the time has come for the STB and the industry, with the full support of the government, to make radical moves to arrest the decline and turn the tourism sector around to be a key driver for the economic growth of Singapore."

Singapore Tourism in a New Business Environment

The key points of discussions raised on ëPositioning Singapore as a Visitor Destination in the New Environment' included emphasising on Singapore's lifestyle tourism assets while cultivating high growth markets like BTMICE (Business Travel, Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions), Healthcare and Education. The members believe that the focus on building lifestyle hardware and software as the backbone of Singaporeís tourism development will ensure long term, sustainable growth for the industry.

Mr Adrian Zecha, Chairman of Amanresorts said; "The thrust is to identify Singapore's uniqueness and concentrate our efforts in leveraging on these strengths. Singapore is truly a first-world city in Asia with fantastic infrastructure, and it has the potential to be a world-renowned lifestyle destination. What it needs to do is to close the gap between perception and reality by raising awareness of Singapore's rich and diverse tourism appeal. This will help cultivate repeat high-yield visitors who will be attracted to Singaporeís lifestyle, as well as its other niche tourism offerings."

Managing Challenges & Emerging Trends

The IACT members also discussed how Singapore could effectively manage challenges posed by emerging trends such as technology advances in aviation, emergence of low-cost carriers, and increasing competition from its Asian neighbours for a share of the tourism pie. The Council reiterated that while the STB's strategies have helped Singapore remain an attractive destination, it would augur well to continue its focus on growing the regional markets; twinning Singapore with complementary neighbouring destinations; and continued investment to build Singapore as an attractive destination by focussing on radical strategies to build niche segments like Education, Health and Cruise Tourism. The members also commented that the development of low-cost carriers will augur well for Singapore's position as a regional tourism hub and the gateway to Asia.

"There is tremendous potential for Singapore to tap on India's education segment, which has a market potential of more than 100,000 Indian students who study overseas. The STB could work with education institutions to come up with packages that would appeal to this market. In addition, I would recommend the setting up of marketing advisory councils in key markets in order to better understand and meet the needs of the consumers," said Mr Ranjit Malkani, Chairman and Chief Executive of India and Asia Kuoni Travel Group. The STB's management will look into setting up such councils in India and China for a start.

Singaporeans as Tourism Ambassadors

On the topic of "Cultivating Singaporeans as Tourism Ambassadors", the Council highlighted the need to take a long term view to tourism rebound; and focus on fundamentals such as stressing the importance of service culture and quality amongst Singaporeans. The Council also emphasised the importance of educating Singaporeans on the relevance of tourism in their lives in order to encourage spontaneous enthusiasm and pride from them as tourism ambassadors.

Mr John L Sharpe, former Chief Operating Officer of Four Seasons Hotel said; "The tourism industry provides great employment opportunities. In order to raise the profile of the tourism industry, it is important for younger people to see the industry as an attractive potential career option. There seems to be a lack of respect for the service industry. All honest work is deserving of respect, and those who perform it are entitled to dignity. It is therefore, critical to educate Singaporeans, especially the youth so that they come to view the tourism industry as an attractive and inviting career choice."

Mr Koji Shinmachi, Chairman of Japan Association of Travel Agent said; "While Singapore is well known for its process efficiency and advanced knowledge base economy, it should do more to enhance its hospitality standards to provide visitors 'a good feeling' when they visit Singapore. Management staff of hotel, attractions and tourism related outlets must truly understand and emphasise the importance of service culture in the hospitality trade, as they are frontline tourism ambassadors of Singapore."

Discussions on the new destination branding for Singapore highlighted the need to find a compelling and distinctive positioning that would enable Singapore to stand out in the crowd.

Mr Rupert Keeley, President and Chief Executive of Visa International Asia Pacific region said; "The STB's proposed new brand positioning captures many of the compelling, unique and attractive qualities that make Singapore such a global tourist destination. The blend of cosmopolitan modernity with cultural richness and natural greenery provides a platform which both Singaporeans and visitors will identify with. I look forward to seeing how this new work will translate into a broad range of communications in the coming months."

Singapore as an Events Capital

The Council members also exchanged views on "Developing Singapore as a Strong Events Destination". The members felt that Singapore has a strong infrastructure, which it could leverage on to create a strong branding for Singapore as a premier events capital. Key recommendations included clustering and marketing of similar events; greater emphasis on promoting instead of creating events; development of a stronger audience base; and focus on iconic events which will not be easily replicated. These recommendations are consistent with the emphasis to strengthen Singapore as a lifestyle destination. The Council also advised the STB to be more focussed on tent-pole events so as not to spread its resources too thinly.

Ms Yang Lan, Chairman of Sun Media Group Holdings of China said; "Singapore is a strong destination for the Chinese market. Its uniqueness which appeals to the Chinese visitors cannot be replicated easily. Chinaís secondary cities have vast potential for growth and the STB should invest more resources to expand its market share beyond Chinaís major cities."

Singapore as a Choice Business Destination

Key recommendations made for "Developing Singapore as a Choice Business Travel and MICE Destination" included attracting top MICE talents into the industry; placing stronger emphasis on attracting top government level summits to Singapore; and packaging MICE events with stronger educational content.

The discussion on how Singapore can take a "Strategic View in Market Development" highlighted the need for Singapore to develop a broad framework to engage various industry partners and government agencies; encourage private sector and government collaboration; and build as many bridges as possible in the various countries by taking a flexible and adaptive approach.

"There must be regional collaboration as it plays a significant role in boosting Singapore's growth moving forward. For instance, Cruising could be an important appeal in attracting tourists from China and India. Drive-cruise is an emerging trend for the cruise industry. Singapore can tap on this trend and it would be encouraging to have more government involvement to develop its cruise hub status. With greater governmental support, Singapore can have a first mover advantage if we further develop the cruise industry. Having just celebrated Star Cruises' 10th year in Singapore, I reckon its time to move the industry to the next level," said Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Chairman, President and Chief Executive of Star Cruises, Malaysia.

Mr Wee Ee-chao, Chairman of STB, who is also Chairman of IACT 2003, said; "It's critical for the Singapore tourism industry to embrace advocacy and collaboration in its engagement with various governments and industry agencies. While we would like to encourage the private sector to lead in driving the industry forward, we recognise that itís imperative for the public sector to review the regulatory and legislative framework to make it more conducive for the private sector to operate more effectively."

"The last two days have seen lively and frank exchanges amongst the IACT participants. We thank them for their candid and insightful views which we believe will contribute significantly to the STB's review and planning process," added Mr Wee.

The STB, will thoroughly review the various key recommendations of the IACT 2003, and work in tandem with the industry and the relevant government agencies to drive Singapore's tourism industry into the next lap of growth.